Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fat Washing - Using Fatty or Oily Foods in Homebrew

So, I've been meaning on writing up a post about fat washing for sometime now, but I just haven't had a batch of beer recently that needed to use the technique. While I was traveling last week for work though I had a bit of a brainstorming session on beers I hope to brew up in the next few months and one I really wanted to use sweet almonds in.

Ive never been one to use extracts, however I do from time to time like to make something myself that can be used in a beer. I feel that there is quite a bit of a difference in making it yourself versus buying something off the shelf. Too many of the extracts that Ive bought in the past have a very artificial taste to me, and adding that to a carefully crafted homebrew never really sat well with me. So using store bought bitter almond extract in this beer just didn't seem right.

Fat washing is a technique that allows you to extract the strong flavors and aromas from any type of fat that you wish. If you frequent any homebrew boards you'll most likely come across at least a few posts that want to be able to use nuts, oils, or even bacon in a brew! Very rarely though does someone suggest trying to fat wash the ingredient, and instead it is ground up and tossed in the mash or in the secondary. The problem is that with this approach you almost always have a very thin layer of oil to deal with post-fermentation, and as well all should know oil kills head retention and can make a beer go rancid fairly quickly.

Instead of dealing with the oil post-fermentation when it is a very thin layer and covers all your fermentation equipment, it is much easier to deal with before the ingredient is ever added to the beer/wine/mead. Fat washing is a very simple technique that can extract all of the flavor and none of the headaches from any of these flavorful oily ingredients.

To begin fat washing an ingredient it is necessary to have a strong neutral alcohol (I prefer Everclear), a mason jar - preferably one tall and narrow, and if the ingredient isn't an oil and is something like almonds or walnuts you should have a stack of coffee filters, and a way to grind the ingredient up as well.

Fat Washing
  1. Your first step to extracting all the great flavors is to prepare the ingredient that you wish to use. So if you want to use bacon you should fry it up and drain the fat off to use, if your using nuts, roast them if you wish and grind them up. Oils are the most simple and require no additional processing.

  2. Take the oil (bacon fat, butter, sesame oil, etc) or nuts/etc and place them in the mason jar.

  3. Cover the oil, nuts, or whatever your using up with the everclear or vodka. I prefer everclear in that it is cleaner tasting than a cheap vodka , I will then dilute it with distilled water to make an extract with roughly the same alcohol content as vodka. Its best to use no less more than a 50:50 mix of alcohol to ingredient. So if your using something like bacon fat the more fat that is used versus the alcohol the stronger the flavor can be.

  4. Wait......How long is up to you. In general things like sesame oil or butter require much less time than nuts or other larger ingredients. Ive done butter and sesame oil in about 1-2days but nuts can take a few weeks. You should swirl the jar whenever you can to keep the ingredients mixed up, or better yet toss it on your stir plate!

  5. After you feel enough time has past, strain out any large ingredients like nuts and allow the ingredients to settle. Slowly a layer of oil will separate itself from the alcohol and float on top.

  6. Once you have a layer of oil on top place the jar into the freezer with a straw placed into the jar. This should freeze the oil layer and allow you to extract the alcohol underneath. Pull the straw out and a hole will remain in the oil, you can now pour the alcohol out through the hole. This process may need to be repeated 2-3times before there is no fat layer left. This step becomes much much easier with a tall narrow jar, as it helps to concentrate the fat into a thicker layer allowing for easier separation.

  7. I like to give one pass through a coffee filter for any extract before I use it. In my experience it has the tendency to catch any last little amounts of oil left in the extract and removes any small bits as well

  8. Use your Extract!

Ive used this on many different types of ingredients. I have included a list below that I will update as I try more ingredients. One thing that I have noticed about using these extracts is that some like bacon fade considerably with time, while others like sesame oil or butter never loose their punch.
  • Sweet Almonds - TBD?
  • Grapefruit peel - Tends to be very sharp and the extract actually makes my tongue numb
  • Orange Peel - Sweeter and softer than grapefruit
  • Lemon Peel - floral like lemon flavor
  • Bacon Fat - Strong bacon flavor very little needed, but does fade with aging
  • Butter - Strong buttery flavor, never fades. I used this in the Hot Wing beer
  • Walnuts - Nutty flavor, great for adding to porters!
  • Sesame Oil - Intense sesame flavor that does not fade
  • Walnut Oil - Stronger than using just walnuts, but not quite as aromatic
  • Soon! - Cocoa Butter - Hopefully will give me a great dark chocolate flavor!

Almond Extract/Liqueur Recipe

4oz Raw, unsalted Almonds
1.5C Vodka or equivalent Everclear + Water

Now I'm actually doing two versions of this extract for additional flavor. One will use the raw almonds as is, the other I am home-roasting the almonds. To roast the almonds I am layering them on a baking sheet and roasting three times at 400F for about 12min. After each roasting I remove the almonds from the oven and place on paper towels to cool and remove some of the oil (something Ive picked up from DIY nut liquer recipes)

After Both sets of almonds were ready (2 x 4oz) I ground them to a fine powder using a coffee grinder.

The almonds are then placed into separate jars (I'm making 2 separate extracts) and covered with the vodka or everclear mix.

I am planning on leaving the nuts in the alcohol for about 3-4wks at which time I will filter and extract the alcohol from the oil layer. When it is finished I will post updated pictures of the final extract along with a small review of the taste of each. After I use these extracts in an upcoming brew, whatever remains will get a small addition of simple syrup to make these into (hopefully) a delicious aperitif.


Kyle said...

This is awesome. I'm not sure I've seen a tutorial on this around the web.

Do you find that your extract affects your ABV, FG, etc, in any way?

Ryan said...

No, but I guess it could depending on how much of the extract you add to your batch. Ive found though that it generally doesnt take much to get a fairly strong flavor impact

Jeffrey Crane said...

I have heard of homebrewers boiling their whiskey before adding to the beer to help cut down on the alcohol bite.

Do you think this could be done for these extracts or will that change/ruin the flavor?

Great post.

Ryan said...

Jeffrey - That sounds ridiculous to me, if you like whiskey but dont want the alcohol just add oak to your brew! Boiling the alcohol extract will definitely change the flavor, as many of the flavor/aroma compound you want if not all of them will boil off with the alcohol. This would be especially bad with the extracts like bacon where Ive noticed the flavor fades on its own already

I never thought about this but how large of a volume are people using in their brews? With these Ive never added more than say 20-30mL per gal of beer, which should add somewhere in the range of 0.2-0.3% to your abv. To get in a range of adding significant alcohol to a beer (1%+) you would need to add about 3.25oz per gallon of beer

Luke said...


Do you add the extract in secondary or wait until bottling/kegging?


Ryan said...

Luke - I always add them to taste when bottling or kegging

Chris said...

I'm guessing this would work for coffee and chocolate as well? I'm working on a Breakfast stout and I'm very weary of adding both coffee and chocolate at any stage in production.

Ryan said...

You could give it a shot, although for something like coffee the taste/aroma is mostly soluble in water, so youll probably get a much different taste extracting with alcohol

Chocolate, is also easy, you can just use cocoa powder in the secondary and in the boil. Eventually I will try doing the extraction with some cocoa butter that Ive bought. I would stay away from using actual chocolate bars, as they have lots of other things in them (emulsifiers, sugar, etc, etc)

Whatever you do, Id be very interested to know. If one works extremely well for you, maybe I could even talk you into doing a little blurb about it for the blog?

Chris said...

I'm mainly just concerned about the oils from the coffee being a head killer. So I'll have to think on that one for a bit.

As far as the chocolate goes, I'm definitely still thinking of using this process. I'm just slightly confused in regards to achieving the proper ratio of chocolate to grain alcohol to get the right amount of flavor into the finished beer.

And yeah, I'd be glad to share my experience with this.

momobono said...

This may be 3 years after your post, but this technique is well-explained here. I'm using it for my nut brown ale. Hopefully you get the pingback to your blog!

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